Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Commentary

Written on Skin: the Melos Sinfonia take George Benjamin's opera to St Petersburg

As I approach St Cyprian’s Church in Marylebone, musical sounds which are at once strange and sensuous surf the air. Inside I find seventy or so instrumentalists and singers nestled somewhat crowdedly between the pillars of the nave, rehearsing George Benjamin’s much praised 2012 opera, Written on Skin.

Bampton Classical Opera Young Singers’ Competition 2017

Bampton Classical Opera’s third Young Singers’ Competition takes place this autumn, culminating in a public final at Holywell Music Room, Oxford on November 19. This biennial competition was first launched in 2013 to celebrate the company’s 20th birthday, and is aimed at identifying the finest emerging young opera singers currently working in the UK.

Peter Kellner announced as winner of 2018 Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Voice Fellowship

Independent Opera (IO) was very present at the Wigmore Hall last week. On Thursday 5 October, IO announced 26 year old Slovakian bass Peter Kellner as the winner of the 2018 Wigmore Hall/IO Voice Fellowship, a two-year award of £10,000 plus professional mentoring from IO and the Wigmore Hall. A graduate of the Konzervatórium Košice Timonova and the Mozarteum University Salzburg, Peter is currently a member of Oper Graz in Austria where later this season he will sing the title role of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and Colline in Puccini’s La bohème.

‘Never was such advertisement for a film!’: Thomas Kemp and the OAE present a film of Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Oxford Lieder Festival

Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier was premiered at the Dresden Semperoper on 26th January 1911. Almost fifteen years to the day, on 10th January 1926, the theatre hosted another Rosenkavalier ‘premiere’, with the screening of a silent film version of the opera, directed by Robert Wiene - best known for his expressionistic masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. The two-act scenario had been devised by Hugo von Hoffmansthal and the screening was accompanied by a symphony orchestra which Strauss himself conducted.

Mark Padmore on festivals, lieder and musical conversations

I have to confess, somewhat sheepishly, at the start of my conversation with Mark Padmore, that I had not previously been aware of the annual music festival held in the small Cotswolds town of Tetbury, which was founded in 2002 and to which Padmore will return later this month to perform a recital of lieder by Schubert and Schumann with pianist Till Fellner.

Natalya Romaniw: 'one of the outstanding sopranos of her generation’

There can hardly be a dry eye in the house, at the ‘Theatre in the Woods’ at West Horsley Place - Grange Park Opera’s new home - when, in Act 3 of Janáček's first mature opera, Natalya Romaniw’s Jenůfa realises that the tiny child whose frozen body has been discovered under the ice is her own dead son.

Elizabeth Llewellyn: Investec Opera Holland Park stages Puccini's La Rondine

It’s six or so years ago since soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn appeared as an exciting and highly acclaimed new voice on the UK operatic stage, with critics praising her ‘ravishing account’ (The Stage) of Mozart’s Countess in Investec Opera Holland Park’s 2011 Le nozze di Figaro in which ‘Porgi, amor’ was a ‘highlight of the evening’.

Dougie Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera: in conversation

One year ago, tens of millions of Britons voted for isolation rather than for cooperation, but Douglas (Dougie) Boyd, Artistic Director of Garsington Opera, is an energetic one-man counterforce with a dynamic conviction that art and culture are strengthened by participation and collaboration; values which, alongside excellence and a spirit of adventure, have seen Garsington Opera acquire increasing renown and esteem on the international stage during his tenure, since 2012.

A Chat With Italian Conductor Riccardo Frizza

Riccardo Frizza is a young Italian conductor whose performances in Europe and the United States are getting rave reviews. He tells us of his love for the operas of Verdi, Bellini, and particularly Donizetti.

LA Opera’s Young Artist Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

On Saturday evening April 1, 2017, Placido Domingo and Los Angeles Opera celebrated their tenth year of training young opera artists in the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Program. From the singing I heard, they definitely have something of which to be proud.

When Performance Gets Political: A Brooklyn Concert Benefiting the ACLU

What’s an artist’s place in politics? That’s the question many were asking after actress Meryl Streep made a pointed speech criticizing President Trump at the Golden Globes. Trump responded directly to Streep, using his preferred communication medium of Twitter to call Streep “overrated.”

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

Battles administration neglects FLO’s assets by defunding the program

The college administration and President Denise Battles’ recent decision to defund the Finger Lakes Opera came as a shock to many and a concern to more. This decision reflects the administration’s blatant disregard for the arts and reveals a mindset that is counterproductive to the mission of the college.

2017 Summer Festival at Lucerne

Lucerne Festival announces its 2017 Summer Festival.

BEMF Chamber Opera Series Presents Splendors of Versailles

The GRAMMY Award-winning BEMF Chamber Opera Series returns with an all-new production inspired by the splendor and music of the palace of Versailles. King Louis XIV transformed his father’s pastoral hunting lodge at Versailles into a lavish palace that served as the seat of government and culture in France.

Center for Contemporary Opera presents Jane Eyre (World Premiere)

Louis Karchin’s Jane Eyre, a full-length opera in three acts with a libretto by Diane Osen based on Charlotte Bronte’s novel, will receive its world premiere at The Kaye Playhouse (Hunter College) on Thursday, October 20, 7:30pm with a second performance on Saturday, October 22, 8pm. Jane Eyre is Karchin’s second opera, composed in 2014, following his critically acclaimed one-act comic opera Romulus.

Boston Early Music Festival announces the appointment of Melinda Sullivan to the new position of the Lucy Graham Dance Director

Cambridge, MA–The Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF) is pleased to announce the appointment of Melinda Sullivan to the new position of the Lucy Graham Dance Director.

2016 Elizabeth Connell Prize Winner Announced

Kseniia Muslanova from the Russian Federation has won the 3rd annual Elizabeth Connell Prize for aspiring dramatic sopranos held at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Sydney Australia on 3 September 2016.

A New Opera Company with a True Story of Forbidden Love

Victory Hall Opera is a new company making its debut in Charlottesville Virginia on August 14, 2016. Its first presentation will be Richard Strauss’s and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Der Rosenkavalier.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Commentary

12 Apr 2005

An Interview With Michael Maniaci

Michael Maniaci has a fight on his hands. In the world of baroque opera he’s a young singer who seems to have it all: he’s intelligent, immensely talented, well-trained, committed and surprisingly wise for his 29 years. On top of that he’s already been successful in the USA winning prestigious competitions, and recently gaining significant roles at such proving grounds as Glimmerglass, New York City Opera and Santa Fe.


Michael Maniaci (Photo: Lake, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

The Rise of the Male Soprano?

Michael Maniaci has a fight on his hands. In the world of baroque opera he's a young singer who seems to have it all: he's intelligent, immensely talented, well-trained, committed and surprisingly wise for his 29 years. On top of that he's already been successful in the USA winning prestigious competitions, and recently gaining significant roles at such proving grounds as Glimmerglass, New York City Opera and Santa Fe.

So what's the difficulty? The problem — and it's perhaps only one for the more conservative of baroque directors — is that Maniaci is a true male soprano. He is not a countertenor with a falsetto head voice above a tenor or baritone chest voice, and the roles he wants to make his own are the great Handelian ones which were written for that most high-flying of long-lost vocal types, the soprano castrato, and normally sung by female mezzos or sopranos today: Xerxes, Ariodante, Sesto, Tirinto, not to mention Mozart's "pants" role of Cherubino which Maniaci has already performed with critical success at Pittsburgh Opera working with Christopher Alden in a ground-breaking production of Figaro. Phrases such as "thrilling agility and musicianship" and "pure tone, perfect trills and exquisite legato in the soprano range" abound in his press clippings.

I caught up with Michael Maniaci in Copenhagen, where he was dipping his toe into mainstream European waters with the small but significant role of Nireno in Handel's "Giulio Cesare", alongside the likes of Andreas Scholl, Inger dam Jensen and Christopher Robson. I was intrigued to hear more from the man himself, and to find out just how much of a fight might lie ahead for him before he gains his vocal goals.

Coming from the Midwest of America, his Baptist parents had hoped that he might join his sister in becoming a teacher and although happy enough to encourage the young Michael at school choir and in church singing, they were not a musical family in the accepted sense and were worried about him following a career in music, let alone one in the high octane world of opera. But a love of singing, and of the theatre, was in his blood from somewhere, and from high school he progressed to college in Cincinnati and then on to the renowned Juilliard School in New York where 5 years scholarship study brought him to a place on their elite Opera Centre programme.

However, it hasn't all been quite as simple or easy as that may sound. From his teenage years he has fought to be accepted at all these places because, simply, he sings in the soprano range and heard over and over again from directors and teachers "you don't fit any of our programs". He explained to me how his voice came about in a natural, if unusual way: "During puberty my voice just stayed where it was; it didn't change with the rest of me, although it's got stronger and fuller. Doctors examining my throat found that the larynx and vocal cords had not lengthened and thickened in the normal way; I don't have an Adams apple, and yet in every other way I'm a normal male". On top of that, this young man has also had to cope with another problematic "spin" ball, as he was born with a slight facial palsy. However, in the same way that he has capitalised on his unusual vocal gift, he has also overcome any minor disadvantage of this potential difficulty by putting even more effort into the dramatic side of his art — and his ability to hold the eye, to inhabit his mainly non-singing but ever-present character of Nireno in "Cesare" was as admirable as his effortless, full-toned and dramatic single aria. He found the part rewarding: "It's been extremely challenging, but I've learned a lot here". The Royal Danish Opera was obviously convinced as to his potential as they restored his character's one aria in their revival of "Cesare" in order to ensure his acceptance of the role. In his turn Maniaci gave up the, on the face of it, much more attractive role of Medoro in NYC Opera's "Orlando" in order to sing here. "I was willing to turn down the Medoro, knowing that the opera would be a huge success in Lincoln Centre, because I was thrilled to come here and do something very small and work with these people, get my feet wet, and of course benefit from the upcoming DVD exposure. I'm convinced I made the right choice".

Taking that sort of calculated risk comes naturally to Maniaci and he did the same when he recently took on the role of Cherubino, with Christopher Alden directing, at Pittsburgh Opera. "It's a fascinating experiment" said Alden before the first night, and of course there were a few voices raised against Maniaci taking on a role written by Mozart for a female soprano to sing dressed as a boy. However, the local, usually conservative, press were warm in their praise on first night and Maniaci defends his decision, saying "it was right for me, and you have to remember I'm not going to put myself up for anything that I feel I can't fully serve". He also admits to harbouring a desire to sing Octavian and the Composer, although they might be a further into the future, and will probably take second place to the Handel roles in major houses that he covets more immediately.

If Michael Maniaci no longer has to sing auditions in his native country, and will shortly be singing the "secondo uomo" role of Lucio Cinna to Susan Graham's Cecilio in Mozart's "Lucio Silla" at Santa Fe Opera this summer, his profile this side of the Atlantic is not so defined. Also, he is quite aware that he will have a struggle on his hands to get accepted by some of the big guns of European baroque opera — the likes of Jacobs, Minkowski and Christie on the musical side and the more conservative opera intendants who have scarcely yet admitted to the pulling power of the countertenor revolution in the past ten years, let alone to the existence of a true male soprano. He has already auditioned for Rene Jacobs and found that although the much-feted conductor and ex-countertenor praised his musicianship and technical expertise, the very fact of his voice's soprano range "confused" Jacobs entirely. It will take daring and far-sighted musical directors to pick up the reins of Maniaci's European career and run with a voice that must be a unique embellishment to the Baroque revival over here. Luckily for him there are already just such people who do have that faith, and Maniaci is grateful to them for as he says "I started singing and performing so young ...... I love it, I'm thankful for it and — frankly — when I don't have the chance to communicate with people on stage I can feel it affecting me in a negative way, and I do feel that is what I must be doing. I am based in New York City at the moment but I have a feeling that I could easily become an ex-patriot!" Judging by what I have heard and seen of Michael Maniaci to date, it would be our gain, and America's loss.

© S.C.Loder 2005

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):